Americans ditching predatory credit cards

We here at WalletPop read a lot of comments about how angry Americans are with their credit card companies. We read a lot of missives from people who claim that the combination of rate hikes, fee increases and credit-limit cuts are pushing them to cut up their cards and cancel the offending accounts. And we've wondered, from time to time, how many Americans really do that. How many really are mad as heck and decide not to take it anymore? And how many just succumb to the inertia of a busy life and the convenience of keeping the card?

A new survey from comScore clears up some of the mystery and confirms that Americans are, in fact, voting with their wallets. Consumers are protesting what they see as unfair treatment at the hands of their credit card companies. According to the survey, 9% of respondents have applied for a new card, while 8% have transferred a balance to a card with better terms. What's more, a whopping 39% say they've either stopped using a card that meted out draconian terms or closed the account entirely, while more than half -- 55% -- say they've stopped using cards that they feel penalize them.

We're happy to see American consumers putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to letting the credit card companies know how they feel about the outrageous practices issuers have been enacting lately. But we'd like to offer one word of advice: If you're ticked off at how you're being treated by a credit card company, by all means pay off the balance and stop using it. But don't cancel it, especially if it's a card with a high credit limit. Closing an account affects what's called your "utilization rate," which can lower your credit score. On the other hand, paying off a card will improve your utilization rate. It also doesn't hurt to use an inactive card occasionally for something small and then pay the charge immediately. This will avoid the risk of having your account closed by the company (which, again, affects your utilization rate).
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